September 26, 2005

The Iran Conundrum

A Ledeenian cri de coeur!

This is not a war on terror, it is paralysis at best, and appeasement at worst. The hell of it is that it is costing thousands of lives, and will cost many more until the terror masters are destroyed, or we surrender. Those words were inconceivable for many years, but it is a sign of our present fecklessness that they are now entirely appropriate. We can still lose this war. And we cannot win it so long as we are blinded by our potentially fatal failure of strategic vision: we are in a regional war, but we have limited our actions to a single theater. Our most potent weapons are political and ideological, but our actions have been almost exclusively military.

Our main enemy, the single greatest engine in support of the terror war against us, whether Sunni or Shiite, jihadi, or secular, Arab or British or Italian or Spaniard, is Iran. There is no escape from this fact. The only questions are how long it will take us to face it, how effective we will be when we finally decide to act, and how terrible the price will be for our long delay.

Why so shy Michael, amidst all this discontent on Iran policy, to pepper your NRO pieces with more concrete policy proposals? Put differently, what exactly is "serious action"? Sanctions? 'Free Iran' safe havens? Carte blanche to Uzi Landau to rev up the IDF's finest for commando raids around Isfahan? Loudly pouring money to the democratic opposition, the better so they be crudely painted as collaborators of the Great Satan, and brutally put down while we helplessly wail on about it in the commentariat? With all respect to Michael, with whom I correspond in cordial fashion, can he please point me to a portion of his Iran oeuvre where he details a realistic, implementable Iran strategy (with specifics!).

Meanwhile, Drezner writes:

I'm not saying that a move to the Security Council won't make sense at some point. But given the oil market at present, Iran has more economic leverage than they might in the future.

"...given the oil market at present..." Points for understatement of the week, Dan!

More from Hoagland:

A decision by the Bush administration not to press for economic sanctions against oil-producing Iran was sealed by the destructive force that the two hurricanes targeted on U.S. refining facilities and the resulting leap in crude oil and gasoline prices [ed. note: Well, it could be worse]. "We were already moving toward asking the Security Council to do no more than put Iran's nuclear program on its agenda for constant review and prodding," says a senior European official. "The prospect of a call for sanctions driving oil above $100 a barrel seemed to kill any lingering enthusiasm in Washington for such a move now."

I think it was Goldman, a good while back when oil was still in the 40s, that called the real prospects of a super-spike price floating around $105/barrel. We're not there yet, but sanctions in Iran would be one way to get us north of $80 might quick. The problem is, I can't imagine oil prices going under $40 for linking pushing Iran sanctions to lower oil prices seems like something of a recipe for inaction for a long time indeed. But, regardless, would sanctions even work? I'm not persuaded they would have the intended effect, not by a long shot. They are just as likely to lead to less modernization, re-invigorated (yes, even more than current conditions!) oppression, xenophobia, nationalist re-awakening, etc etc. And did sanctions expedite Saddam's fall, or did they instead enrich his regime while, instead, his people suffered? Why would it be different with the mullah's (but wait, it's the post-Volker era!)?

Let's throw this out to comments. Has the time for resucitating a dialogue with Iran come? If it 'worked' (just perhaps!) for NoKo, mightn't it for Iran? Or are we just going to rag on those fuddy-duddy Euros for not being able to get results in their troika-rounds--while stewing helplessly in the Beltway with no better strategy really on offer?

P.S. I still think this is the best way forward.

...better for Washington to propose to Teheran a "compartmentalized process of dialogue, confidence building, and incremental engagement. The U.S. should identify the discrete set of issues where critical U.S. and Iranian interests converge, and must be prepared to make progress along separate tracks, even while considerable differences remain in other areas."

The key tracks? 1) Iran's role in Iraq and 2) Iran's nuclear weapons capability. Of less immediate urgency, in my view, (though still obviously of significant import) are 3) Iran's support for terror groups like Hezbollah and 4) democratic reforms within Iran.

Yes, I know that we've pretty much had zero formal diplomatic relations with Iran since they took over our Embassy in 1979. We've singled them out over the years, and rightly so, for particular opprobrium. But that was over a quarter century ago, and limited engagement needs to, at least, be seriously debated, no? What's the (serious) alternative? Why not a Chris Hill for Teheran? We've got lots to talk about, after all....or would that be signaling 'weakness'--as compared to the bravura performance (Rumsfeld saying mean things about us in press conferences!) that is so cowing the mullah's at present?

UPDATE: Michael responds via E-mail:

I have given those proposal so many times that I gasp when you ask for them yet again. They were already in "The War Against the Terror Masters," which was published months BEFORE we went into Iraq. I said at that time that Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia constituted a united front, that they "came bundled," and that they were planning a terror war against us in Iraq, modeled on what they did to us in Lebanon in the eighties. And so it was. I wanted, and still support, political action against Iran first, and then a primarily political campaign against Saddam and Assad.

I know that nobody gets credit for being right, but I do think that good policy rests on good analysis, and if the analysis was correct maybe my policy ideas have some merit.

The policy proposal is to do to them what we did to the Soviets (and
Milosovic, Marcos, Baby Doc, et al): support democratic revolution. There are many ways to do this, including open support to the dissidents, building a strike fund for the workers, especially those in transportation and the oil fields, getting the pro-democracy groups good communications gear like servers and laptops, and shaming our Western allies into defending the human rights of the political prisoners, from journalists to professors and students.

You seem to have bought into the myth that if we loudly defend the
dissidents, it only goads the regime into taking more brutal action. But that is wrong. Ask the victims, they will tell you. Even prisoners in the Nazi death camps had a markedly higher survival rate if they were singled out for support from the Allied countries. Prisoners who got presents and letters lived longer than those who remained anonymous to the world at large. Don't you think that Akbar Ganji is alive today because of the (fairly modest) campaign on his behalf? On these matters, we should trust the victims, and they want our support, just as the Ginsburgs, Havels, Walesas, Bukovskys and Sharanskys did during the Soviet tyranny.

Silence equals complicity, in my view, and you should be ashamed at trying to ridicule active support for pro-democracy forces. Anywhere. Anytime. Support for democracy should always be at the center of American foreign policy.

I am against sanctions, they don't work against hostile regimes and they only further punish the innocent.

Lots of people disagree with my advocacy of democratic revolution, mostly arguing that it won't work and it may make things worse for the people I want to help. But they said the same thing in the eighties, when I joined the Reagan Administration because of the president's determination to bring down the Soviet Empire. It took about ten years, didn't it? And we did it with a relatively small minority of the Soviet population willing to say they wanted to be free. In Iran, even the regime's own public opinion polls show more than seventy per cent of the people hate the regime.

Faster, please.

MORE: Dan Darling's w/ Ledeen on this one.

Posted by Gregory at September 26, 2005 05:20 AM | TrackBack (8)

Just one quick question:

What does Uzi Landau have to do with anything? He resigned the cabinet, and he was interior minister, not defense, even when he was still in it. Why mention him in the context of an attack on Iran?

Posted by: Simon at September 26, 2005 05:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

fair Q. he's pretty hard-right likud, perhaps to the right of bibi. it's the tsomet, moledet and hard right likudniks who would be likeliest to get behind a bomb Iran strategy, in my view, thus the Uzi reference. nothing personal to landau, whom i'm told is a decent enough fellow all told. just painting a picture, in broad brush strokes, of the types of israeli pols that would perhaps be seriously entertaining an osirak redux in iran. as i said, nothing personal to landau.

Posted by: greg at September 26, 2005 06:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Our main enemy, the single greatest engine in support of the terror war against us, whether Sunni or Shiite, jihadi, or secular, Arab or British or Italian or Spaniard, is Iran."

Er, funny, but I could have sworn the World Trade Center attacks were carried out by Saudi-connected Sunnis, that the Saudis funded the Taliban and extremist schools everywhere, and have basically underwritten the recruiting efforts feeding the greater portion of our current difficulties.

Posted by: Jon H at September 26, 2005 06:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But that was over a quarter century ago, and limited engagement needs to, at least, be seriously debated, no?

No. Can't shake hands with closed fists, Greg. Just can't do it.

If the Iranians want to pursue these crazy hostilities which they have since the Islamic Republic was founded and continuously to current times, what's the point of talking to someone who can't and won't listen?

If there is no military strike option and no sanction option, then there is no option to physically change the situation with Iran. The Iranians clearly wish to possess nuclear weapons, they've said so, so what exactly is the point of talking to them if there is precisely no option of deterring them from their ends?

If talking for the sake of talking is as effective as shutting up for the sake of shutting up in guaranteeing the US interest, in other words, neither case goes anywhere, let's just save the effort and shut up about it. Or dust off one of the hard options and have ourselves a quick chat.

Posted by: Brad at September 26, 2005 07:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think a post of this nature ought to remind us gentle readers just why so many intelligent pundits firmly believe, despite relentless evidence to the contrary, that a regime such as Iran can actually (still) be negotiated with to stop developing/acquiring something they have absolute intentions of developing/acquiring for purposes they have not shied away from proclaiming (um, I'm not referring here to that "Well, Iran needs peaceful nuclear power" thang).

Top marks for snarkiness, though.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 26, 2005 08:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is a shame that none of the administrations involved, whether US or European, seems willing to work together with Iran and assist them in peaceful use of atomic energy, a move which would, in all probability, strengthen ties, trade and lead to a passive overview of all nuclear activity in the country.


Posted by: Pi. at September 26, 2005 09:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think the time for the US to resuscitate dialogue with Iran came at least 4 years ago, but the Bush administration still seems dogged in the pursuit of any and all options bar that one.

I'm sure that if the US were to repudiate its own crazy hostility towards the sovereign autonomy of Iran, a policy that dates back to Mossadegh, and has included, amongst other things, the noxious policy of aiding and abetting Iraq's acquisition and deployment of WMD's for use against them, then there would be a basis for diplomatic progress.

I always look at the Carter takedown that the hostage crisis precipitated as fair payback for the removal of Mossadegh - sometimes it's best to call the game a draw and move on. Certainly, for the purposes of moving forwards ( on both sides ), it would make sense to call for a rhetorical statute of limitations.

Whilst UN sanctions may be both pointless and unworkable - it should at least be acknowledged that the US has imposed sanctions, with severe extraterritorial implications for foreign businesses, against Iran for many years. Along with some $11 billion of Iranian state assets frozen in NY, this does rather give the impression that the US is engaged in economic warfare against Iran. No wonder they remain pissed off all these years.

Surely someone in the Bush administration should have noticed by now that the US has in fact been following the path laid down by Iran with respect to both Saddam and the Taleban - perhaps this "felicitous" convergence of interests could have been exploited more advantageously; and instead of turning Iraq into a competitive battleground for strategic political influence ( a competition that Iran is always going to win ), a more diplomatic approach which aimed to settle the hostilities of the past would have been beneficial.

I think, in the end, the real questions that need to be addressed, and answered, are (1) what is there in the US's national security doctrine that makes the sovereign autonomy of Iran anathema - whether wielded by a secular nationalist or an islamist nationalist, and (2) why must this continue now that the cold war is long over?

Posted by: dan at September 26, 2005 12:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iran has made it crystal clear that it is determined to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability. There is literally no inducement - none - the United States can offer to dissuade Iran from that goal. I'm sorry, but the argument for "engagement " is just an updated variant of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement strategy - or, at best, willful blindness. The relevant questions are, (1) is such a capability a threat to the United States and (2) if it is, what shall we do about it?

I would argue that nuclear weapons and nuclear technology in the hands of a radical, terrorist-supporting clerical regime - one that has openly stated its intent to share that technology with "other Islamic states" - is in fact a direct threat to the U.S., and that if left unchecked we can expect a much-increased likelihood of the use of those weapons and technology, not only against Israel, an obvious near-term target of the Iranians, but to U.S. interests and territory as well. I do not believe any diplomatic effort, with or without the support of Europe (the former unlikely in any case) will divert Iran from this course, which leaves military action as our only option. The notion that we have no military option "because we don't know where Iran is hiding its labs and capabilities" ignores that there are many other strategic targets available to our
Air Force - including oil-processing capabilities and the Iranian government itself. Would attacking oil lead to a massive dislocation in oil market? Of course it would - though the effects would be mitigated to some degree by the kind of energy-independence effort this administration seems utterly incapable of mounting. Those who react aghast at the military option need to address the morality of allowing a clearly bloodthirst regime (NOT, I hasten to add, a bloodthirst people) access to the world's most dangerous and million-casualty causing weaponry. Readers of this blog, and Greg himself, also need to answer this question: Has support for a failing sideshow like Iraq weakened our ability to deal with Iran's much greater threat? I fear the question answers itself.

Posted by: Sheldon at September 26, 2005 02:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sheldon, it is anything but clear what Iran's intentions regarding the acquisition of nuclear weapons are. The IAEA has found no trace of a programme and the NIE is reduced to stating that Iran could have a weapon in x years if it had the intent to do so, an intent that it has been unable to concretely demonstrate.

Iran is in no way a direct threat to the US - it has invaded no one, nor prosecuted aggressive wars against its neighbours since the medieval era. The shortest route from Iran to the US is about 8,000 miles, and I think that you'll find that its neighbours have buried many of the hatchets from the past through diplomatic arrangements that seem to work quite well.

At present there are only two states who are likely to use nuclear weaponry, the US and Israel, who will only use them, or threaten their use, against non-nuclear armed nations; it's called force majeure, and is used by bullies to try to get their way in arguments that they cannot win by other means.

In case you hadn't noticed, the US and Israel are constantly threatening Iran, and there is an implicit threat to use nuclear weapons against them ( because conventional military options are not going to cut the mustard - and no one is really that inclined to take the economic and military pain that a conventional attack on Iran will lead to ). This alone is a powerful push factor to the Iranians to develop nuclear weapons; and if this path continues, then any rational Iranian is going to reluctantly conclude that the possession of a nuclear deterrent is their only option. I think there are a plenty of ways around that which involve good old diplomacy and negotiations.

The Iranian regime is not a particularly bloodthirsty regime at all - there are no mass graves, no death camps, no carpet bombing campaigns; whilst they didn't start any wars, they do reserve the right to finish them. They assisted Hizbullah in their ( and other Lebanese ) efforts to end Israeli occupation - that doesn't automatically put them in the wrong however; I'm pretty sure that there are plenty of people in the Pentagon who are secretly glad that whilst the Taleban were taking tours of Texas, the Iranians were supporting the Northern Alliance.

In the end, I suspect that if both the Iranians and the US got beyond the cartoonery and stereotyping there would be plenty of ways to resolve the differences and actually make some progress.

Posted by: dan at September 26, 2005 03:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Contrary to the comments above, Iran has not 'made it crystal clear that it is determined to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability', while the head of the IAEA has made it clear that there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme. Furthermore, Iran is not in breach of the NPT, and under the NPT is perfectly entitled to enrich uranium. The United States and European Allies are trying to deny Iran its entitlements to civilian nuclear industry under the NPT, while also refusing to live up to their own NPT obligations to assist other countries who want a civil nuclear industry and to eliminate their own nuclear weapons programmes.

The rhetoric about Iran, its nuclear programme and the NPT, is based on the same distortions of fact and intelligence which we saw regarding Iraqi WMD prior to the invasion of 2003. It is amazing that people are taking them up with the same lack of critical analysis.

I thoroughly recommend the excellent writings of Gordon Prather, available via, on this issue. I think he will enlighten many!

Posted by: Paul at September 26, 2005 03:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg - Iran is not Iraq - Iren is an authoritarian regime, not a totalitarian one, and it is not at all clear that the regime could survive a largescale increase in unemployment. I think sanctions, if we and the Euros, and the Russians, have the will to enact them, could tip the balance. I would therefore continue to pursue this track, and continue (both as a govt, as individuals, and bloggers) to press the Euros to continue it.

Im not sure whether more overt US support to the Iranian opposition would hurt it all that much. I dont see good eveidence either from those opposed to such assistance, or from Ledeen. I still see too little good coverage of the opinions of ordinary Iranians. My personal contacts report bitter hatred of the regime, but they are essentially tied in to secular North Teheran.

However Im not sure a deal is doable. This new Iran Prez seems quite hardline. Iran is no innocent - they provided support to Hezbollah for terrorist actions against Israele civilians, and support to terrorist in the Pal terrotories, including an entire boatload of arms. They hold several AQ figures in "house arrest" and refuse to extradite them - and it is reported by Dan Darling and others that these figures actively run AQ operations - while I have not seen the Admin run with this, neither have i seen if refuted.

Iran violated the NPT by its secret pursuit of enrichment, and has forfieted its rigths to enrichment. And certainly the world community has the right to deny enrichment to a coutnry that supports terrorism, and calls for the destruction of a widely recognized democratic state.

AS for Nkor 1, We dont know that will work
2, If it does, its because of the commitement of China, and chinas leverage. I dont see the parallel here..

Posted by: liberalhawk at September 26, 2005 04:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There really aren't any good options for dealing with Iran. But willful blindness about their intentions doesn't help either. The very idea that they are pursuing nuclear technolgy for power generation is ludicrous considering all the oil reserves they have. It seems to me that the only real option we have is to inform them, in a non-public manner, that if they continue to pursue their present path and an American city is ever nuked we shall assume that they are responsible, and within minutes every Iranian city will vanish in a mushroom cloud. No evidence needed or desired.


Posted by: tcobb at September 26, 2005 04:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


The Iranians were prepared to deal with the US on the AQ suspects that they hold - they extradited a fair few to Saudi Arabia in any case; unfortunately, under the Hadley rules the Iranian requests for access to Taleban detainees in Guantanamo who were wanted in Iran for the murder of Iranian diplomats were denied ,and the absolute refusal to cooperate on matters of common interest killed off ( intentionally, I suspect ) any possibilities of that. Dan Darling saying that they are directing AQ operations is not, in the real world, proof of anything - it's called hearsay/disinformation.

Iran's support of Hizbullah was perfectly legitimate. Hizbullah, along with other Lebanese groups, attacked the IDF during the occupation of Lebanon; they did not,for the most part, carry out attacks on Israeli civilians in Israel - perhaps you could give us an inventory of the number and nature of attacks on Israel, in Israel, that Hizbullah has carried out since 2000?

The bulk of support for Palestinian militant groups comes from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Sheikhdoms - but don't mention that too loudly as it would irritate a lot of people. There is, however, a really simple solution that would take care of this issue - and that is Israeli moves to end the occupation. In the end, Iranian hostility towards Israel can only be mitigated by the ultimate arbiters of the situation, who are the Palestinians themselves.

Lastly, the US has operated a system of sanctions on Iran for donkeys years now; there are extra-territorial provisions that are written to extend these sanctions as far as is feasible; they haven't worked so far. Neither China, nor Russia, nor, in the end, Japan, India and Europe are going to kneecap themselves economically even more than they're already having to do. So sanctions are not an option. Russia will not accept them as they want to do energy deals with Iran; the rest of the world is in the marketplace for the oil and natural gas that Iran is a major supplier of. In case you hadn't noticed, taking a further 2 million bpd+ off world markets is not going to help none. In the end, extending economic warfare in the hope of unseating the regime in what is, to be honest, the most stable country in the region is a delusion. Secular North Teheran trendies are not the final arbiter of Iranian opinion - they are, after all, just one sector of what is a diverse and complex polity. Sometimes you just have to accept that the policies of the past have failed, are past their sell-by date, and you have to try something else.

Posted by: dan at September 26, 2005 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


The Iranian nuclear power generation programme dates back to the 1960's, and the shape of their long-range plan replicates the one adopted by the Shah, with the support of the US, in the 1970's.

There is absolutely nothing sinister about the Iranian plan: it is coherent and logical, and is based on the recognition that their petroleum and gas reserves are a long-range source of revenue; and it would be better for them to generate power through a nuclear programme - especially as they have all the resources required for it available domestically - rather than burn their petroleum and gas reserves to satisfy domestic electricity demand. Obviously, if you would like to see even less OPEC oil coming to market in the years to come because it is being consumed domestically, and are willing to see prices rise to the $100 per barrel plus level, then that is your prerogative; it is also Iran's prerogative to pursue an appropriate developement strategy and to allocate its resources in a rational way.

You should also bear in mind that the sanctions regime that the US has applied via ILSA makes the exploitation and development of its hydrocarbon reserves difficult, as those sanctions extend to foreign companies who would otherwise invest in large-scale projects. It also makes IMF and World Bank loans problematic.

As regards the second suggestion - well, Dick Cheney already did that - so if there's a coordinated attack on planned parenthood clinics at some point in the next few years, then I guess that the Iranians should be really worried.

Posted by: dan at September 26, 2005 04:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan, from Ledeen, an admittedly biased source, but I have yet to see this point refuted:
"Anyone who believes that Iran is not on a crash program to build atomic bombs need only listen to the Iranian leaders speaking to their own people. On September 15, for example, there was a meeting at the defense ministry in Tehran, involving the defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, and the heads of the Basij and Revolutionary Guards — the bloodiest arms of the regime. Right after the meeting, a young journalist reported on the official Jam-eh-Jam TV that Mohammad-Najjar had said that it is Iran’s "absolute right to have access to nuclear arms and that we must stand up to any pressure from the international community."

Immediately following the televised report about "nuclear arms," the broadcast network was disconnected. Shortly afterwards, Minister Mohammad-Najjar appeared on a radio broadcast for an interview about the meeting and attempted to whitewash his original remarks by stating the official disinformation that Iran "has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program for economic and energy purposes."

If you really believe Iran's nuclear program is benign, then I guess we agree to disagree. Incidentally, to argue that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons because it is being threatened by Israel is disingenuous: the threats from Israel arise specifically in reaction to Iran's nuclear program and have been so stated publicly; not the other way around.

Posted by: Sheldon at September 26, 2005 05:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


If you really think that building a nuclear power generating capacity from scratch is more cost effective than using domestic petroleum for such then you are certainly entitled to do so. And if you wish to take up the offers of generous Nigerian criminals who wish to share millions of dollars with you if you give them access to your bank account you may do that too. If you like I can forward their emails to you. And the idea that Iran would use up all their oil for generating power leaving none for export without having nuclear power plants is interesting. How are they generating power now?

And I missed the new flash where the EVIL Dick Cheney stated that Iran would be wiped out if an American city was nuked by a terrorist attack. Do you have a link for that?

Posted by: tcobb at September 26, 2005 05:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

dan - You state that the Iranian's have no "death camps". This is false. Thousand of Iranians have perished in the regime's prison camps where torture & abuse is the norm. Summary executions have been carried out routinely since the revolution.

With huge reserves of gas & oil, Iran has no need for nuclear energy. Iranian leaders have pledged on several occassions to build an Islamic nuclear bomb snd to use it to destroy Israel. Their intentions are very clear to all who would listen. The enormous expense of building this weapon program would be better served developing the Iranian economy and feeding it's people.

What the West's response to this threat should be is a complex question, but to suggest the Iranian's are persuing purely peaceful & rational goals is innacurate and misleading.

Posted by: Kenneth at September 26, 2005 05:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To have a strategy, one needs to have an objective. The objective does not need to be apocalyptic in any sense -- breaking up grand conspiracies of the terror masters and championing a democratic Iran fall into this category -- and in fact much more limited objectives can anchor a productive strategy more effectively most of the time.

What is America's objective with respect to Iran? I don't mean ultimately -- what we would like Iran to look like in 50 years -- or negatively, in terms of what we do not want to see. I mean what is our objective in the next 6 to 24 months. What do we need? It seems obvious to me that what we most need is information: current data on the state of Iran's internal politics, sources within the Iranian government and major political factions, even within the Iranian military. Surely the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the growing demand for Iranian oil provide opportunities for Iran to spread influence and gather intelligence; equally surely this can be a two way street if America and its allies are prepared to travel it.

Are we? I don't know, and frankly have my misgivings. Every one of the weaknesses America's intelligence community has displayed in its efforts to combat Arab terrorism applies as well to Iran, and I know too little to say for certain that Americans in policymaking positions don't share Mr. Ledeen's overwrought premillenialism about democracy. I do know that during the Cold War intelligence work against the Soviet bloc was not conducted with a view to transforming the Russian heart. It was conducted to limit the Soviet threat, to find out what the Russians were capable of, what their intentions were and what options we had available to us. Iran today is no different; it is a problem, not a cause.

Posted by: JEB at September 26, 2005 09:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


i have followed, and on occassion communicatee with Dan Darling. I find his arguements convincing.

the aq members Iran holds are fairly high level, not minor operatives, and it was KSA, not just the US that asked for their extradition.

Why do you cut off at 2000? If you weill recall, that was when Israel withdrew from Lebanon. All such attacks since 2000 are unwarranted, as there is no longer Lebanese territiory in ISraels possesion. Attacks on Israelis prior to 2000 are of course relevant.

And yes, Iran DOES support terror in Israel. Support from the gulf is from individuals, not the state. In any case those states do not have active programs to enrich uranium, and thus are not relevant to the current discussion. (Bahrain, by the way, has dropped its econ. boycott of Israel)

Byt your real agenda is displayed here:
"There is, however, a really simple solution that would take care of this issue - and that is Israeli moves to end the occupation. "

IE Iranian support for terror is excused because of the occupation. Excuese, me, but ISrael has been seeking to end the occupation for years - the terrorist groups whitch IRan supports have tried their hardest to derail the peace process. And indee, Iran has NOT said it is opposed to Israeli occupation of the territories - rather it oppose the existence of the Zinoist entity period.

it is interesting that you accuse darling of disin, as everything you have posted is an apology for the Iranian state, including even support for their support for the murder of Jewish and Arab men women, and children by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror bombers.

Posted by: liberalhawk at September 26, 2005 10:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Iran is holding members of al-Qaeda's shura majlis and has refused to extradict them to either Saudi Arabia (where they are wanted in connection with the May 2003 Riyadh bombings) or to any other third party. Spanish, German, and French court documents all more or less state to the fact that the individuals there have "controlled freedom of movement" (to quote a French counter-terrorism expert) and al-Qaeda's de facto war minister Saif al-Adel is apparently so free that he has been able to regularly post lengthy strategy documents online and send information to an Arab journalist.

But hey, don't believe me, listen to the Congressional Research Service:

Some other senior figures are apparently beyond U.S. reach. Al Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith, operations planner Sayf al-Adl, and bin Laden’s son Saad are believed to be in Iran. Iran has acknowledged publicly that it has some senior Al Qaeda figures “in custody” — without naming them specifically — but Iran has refused to transfer them to their countries of origin for interrogation and trial.
Many doubt the degree of constraint, if any, that Iran has placed on them, and the Bush Administration has publicly alleged that the three were responsible for planning the May 2003 suicide attacks on a housing complex in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. If true, this would suggest that the three are in contact with Al Qaeda operatives outside Iran. Some might argue that, if these three senior figures are able to communicate with bin Laden and Zawahiri, a major portion of the core of the Al Qaeda leadership as it existed on September 11, 2001 is still operating and possibly in control of ongoing operations. Those who take this view tend to believe that the United States should exert greater efforts to capture bin Laden and Zawahiri on the grounds that
they remain pivotal leadership figures and that their capture would greatly deflate the organization.

And then we have Newsweek basically saying the same thing.

The failure to do anything about these guys would actually be a great Democratic critique of the administration, but as with the realists who keep wanting to make a deal, any deal, with the Islamic Republic, first they're going to have to get past their preferred narrative and deal with the situation as is.

Posted by: Dan Darling at September 26, 2005 10:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" I do know that during the Cold War intelligence work against the Soviet bloc was not conducted with a view to transforming the Russian heart. It was conducted to limit the Soviet threat, to find out what the Russians were capable of, what their intentions were and what options we had available to "

I thought the CIA did a lot of work relative to the internal situations in Soviet Block and third wolrd countries. Hmm?

Much of which was NOT supportive of democracy (Nicaragua? Iran itself) some of which didnt work out too well (Iran?) Maybe we should learn from our mistakes

Posted by: liberalhawk at September 26, 2005 10:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"great Democratic critique of the administration, but as with the realists who keep wanting to make a deal, any deal, with the Islamic Republic, first they're going to have to get past their preferred narrative and deal with the situation as is."

Well I think the real hawkish Dem narrative is that we SHOULD deal firmly with Iran, but that we cant because the Iraqi situation on the ground is fubar (remember - the idea was that a functioning democracy in heavily Shiite Iraq would be the inspiration for revolution in Iran) and that THAT is due to a range of admin mistakes in implementation in IRaq. I dont think switching the focus to Iran makes sense for them, and I think they have a point (I am thinking of Biden-Clinton type dems, not withdrawl advocates)

Posted by: liberalhawk at September 26, 2005 10:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not talking about switching focus so much as acknowledging that the problems exist or attempting to articulate solutions to issues like the al-Qaeda guys in Iran or the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) camps in Pakistan that the administration hasn't tried yet rather than throw up their hands in despair. That's what a serious opposition party is supposed to do in wartime and I don't see it as inimical to keeping the focus on Iraq. I realize that that's a straw man to a certain extent, but one of the problems that I as somebody who does counter-terrorism for a living find so frustrating is that the same people ready to wax apocalyptic over the CIA assessments about "bleed back" from Iraq apparently don't give a damn (or at least haven't to date) about the full-blown al-Qaeda staffed LeT camps that'll give you training any bit as good as what you'll pick up in Iraq without the added risk of being shot in the process.

Posted by: Dan Darling at September 26, 2005 10:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We Can Pay Now or Later!

See my comment at Roger L. Simon's re Dr. Ledeen's NRO piece.




I'm sure the regular readers here are bored to tears re my thoughts on Iran. Dr. Ledeen is right on with his assessment re the dangers that lie ahead in Iran re our strategic foreign policy in the region.

The Blogos can deliver this message to the Amercian people and the world. Please share this message with your friends and associates and encourage them to do so too.

I tend to agree the Mad Mullahs are on their way down like the Hitler Regime at the end of the WWII. The great danger is whether they have a nuke weapon to use in their delusional moments.

Dr. Ledeen is spot on - we can pay now or we can pay much more later.


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RLS Link

Posted by: Ron Wright at September 26, 2005 11:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just one factual point: we have actually been negotiating with the Iranians all along. The main negotiators came from State and CIA, and on a couple of occasions we used Zal Khalilzad, a native Farsi speaker who was then ambassador to Afghanistan. Nothing ever came of these talks. Those who propose that we try to make a deal with the mullahs should take this into account: we have tried, and we always failed. I think it's because the mullahs don't want an agreement with the devil, but obviously other explanations are possible.

Posted by: michael ledeen at September 27, 2005 12:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

LH, I am always in favor of learning from mistakes. As to your other comments, they do not address my argument in favor of a more robust effort to gather intelligence about and within Iran, and in fact rather suggest you did not read it. That is of course your right. As a matter of policy I normally assume that people who did not read an argument the first time will pay any closer attention if it is repeated.

Posted by: JEB at September 27, 2005 01:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

They just want to pump money into MEK. Revolution from within, and all that.

Anachronistic Cold War strategem. Not surprising, considering the source.

But at least he's learned a bit; his arguments peppered with vogue red herrings:

shaming our Western allies into defending the human rights of the political prisoners, from journalists to professors and students.

Ledeen and soft power? Quite.

Never mind who MEK are (Marxists). That was the old war; in GWOT muhajideen and bolshies merely trade places.


Lots of people disagree with my advocacy of democratic revolution, mostly arguing that it won't work and it may make things worse for the people I want to help. But they said the same thing in the eighties, when I joined the Reagan Administration because of the president's determination to bring down the Soviet Empire. It took about ten years, didn't it?

Tehran is Moscow,
Iraq is Japan,
We'd better fund a few more wars
We have no other plan

Posted by: rdg at September 27, 2005 02:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Halliburton, Dick Cheney, and Wartime Spoils

It looks like Republicans were for Iran before they were against Iran.

Posted by: NeoDude at September 27, 2005 02:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Cheney called in June for the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran. He called relations between Iran and the United States a ''tragedy,'' adding that one of the best ways to improve ties would be ''to allow American firms to do the same thing that most other firms around the world are able to do now, and that is to be active in Iran.''

He added, ''We're kept out of there primarily by our own government, which has made a decision that U.S. firms should not be allowed to invest significantly in Iran, and I think that's a mistake.''

Under Mr. Cheney, Halliburton has become a leading member of USA Engage, a lobbying group that seeks to lift sanctions. Halliburton is also a member of the board of the National Foreign Trade Council, a lobbying group that recently won a victory in the Supreme Court, which struck down a Massachusetts state law imposing state sanctions on companies doing business in Burma.

Mr. Cheney's company has already done business in countries still facing U.S. sanctions, including Libya and Iraq, the enemy Mr. Cheney helped vanquish in the Gulf War.

Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Co., joint ventures that Halliburton has sold within the past year, have done work in Iraq on contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry, under the United Nation's Oil for Food program.


Posted by: NeoDude at September 27, 2005 02:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'Yes, I know that we've pretty much had zero formal diplomatic relations with Iran since they took over our Embassy in 1979. We've singled them out over the years, and rightly so, for particular opprobrium. But that was over a quarter century ago...'

If we're talking about old grievances, maybe the US (and Britain) should apologize for 1953 ?

Posted by: DavidP at September 27, 2005 11:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What follows is an accurate chronology of United States involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-88. It is a powerful indictment of the president Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran.

Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement

Whatever his complexes, Khomeini had no qualms about sending his followers, including young boys, off to their deaths for his greater glory. This callous disregard for human life was no less characteristic of Saddam Hussein. And, for that matter, it was also no less characteristic of much of the world community, which not only couldn't be bothered by a few hundred thousand Third World corpses, but tried to profit from the conflict.

The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988

Posted by: malzer at September 27, 2005 02:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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